Saturday, February 17, 2007

Sierra Leone's Economy is picking up - says Finance Minister

The Minister of Finance, John Oponjo Benjamin has in an exclusive interview with Awareness Times yesterday stated that the economy of Sierra Leone is picking up and that, "the country is beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel." The Minister's reaction came yesterday shortly after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) issued yet another praise-filled release concerning the performance of the Sierra Leone Governments handling of the economy under the direction of Minister John Benjamin. In its Public Information Notice (PIN) No. 07/19 of February 13 2007, the IMF wrote, "Executive Directors welcomed Sierra Leones continued robust and broad-based economic growth and the recent moderation of inflation, and commended the authorities for their steady progress in consolidating the environment of peace and stability." The Notice also stated that, "Sierra Leone has made substantial progress with its post-conflict transition. Macroeconomic performance during the last Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility-supported program was on the whole strong, and structural reforms helped establish a foundation for improved public finance management and the conduct of macroeconomic policies." "The reality is nothing is going to stop us from developing Sierra Leone. We are moving ahead. The Debt relief we have succeeded in getting is only serving as a motivation to government for better approaches to local needs in the interest of the people," Mr. Benjamin stated. He confirmed the rigorous stance of government in the line expenditure, noting that there is no longer room for "frivolous expenditure". He further indicated that stringent measures have been adopted in this financial year to ensure expenditures are properly accounted for before disbursement of funds are made, a step he noted is far from the haphazard manner in which it used to be in previous years. This was acknowledged by the IMF when it also wrote: "Regarding structural reforms, progress has been made in the area of public financial management with a numbers of measures implemented." Mr. Benjamin informed Awareness Times that the tightening policy brings to government knowledge how and what-for expenditures are made within its respective departments. Benjamin also said government would continue to provide the enabling environment to attract local and foreign investments as a way of helping to strengthen the economy further. He noted with interest the improvements registered so far in the mining industry which he said with time can ably sustain the economy. Mr. Benjamin however views the laurels as more of a challenge because according to him, the impact of the recorded good "is not adequately being felt by the people." He acknowledged that much more needed to be done in the area of poverty alleviation in the country and this area was currently one of the SLPP Governments areas of high concern. Responding to the suggestion that there is much grumbling about hardship, Mr. Benjamin appealed to Sierra Leoneans to understand where the country had been during the war years and where the country was now. "Rome was not built in a day. Let us all work to re-develop our country which had been completely destroyed by APC's years of mismanagement and the ensuing war." Benjamin appealed. He expressed understanding for those who are grumbling about hardship but at the same time urged Sierra Leoneans to inculcate the culture of hard work in order to earn a living. He made an analogy that it was due to the hard work of the team at the Finance Ministry that they have been able to achieve the international respect and praises that were now pouring in for the handling of the Sierra Leone economy. Mr. John Benjamin who is easily one of the most hardworking Ministers in Sierra Leone promised yesterday that he would continue to work to improve the lives of his countrymen. The IMF Notice clearly reveals that ever since Benjamin took over the Ministry of Finance in the last quarter of the year 2005, fiscal tightening and prudent financial management have been the indicators at the Ministry and this has resulted in the successes that the Sierra Leone economy now enjoys.

Source: Sierra Leone's Economy is picking up - says Finance Minister: Sierra Leone News